Wine barrels at Granite Creek Vineyard. The organic vineyard is less than a mile from St. Catherine Laboure Parish in Chino Valley and opens for weekend wine tasting at noon Sunday. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Wine barrels at Granite Creek Vineyard. The organic vineyard is less than a mile from St. Catherine Labouré Parish in Chino Valley and opens for weekend wine tasting at noon Sunday. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

It’s rare that I remember my holiday weekends  — largely because they lack any formal plan — but last Labor Day weekend was a little different. I was asked to be in Chino Valley for a 9:30 a.m. Mass the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. Official Catholic Sun business.

I was happy to go. I had lived in Arizona for 11 years by that point and made it out of the Valley once early on for a retreat. The next time I ventured north was August 2010 when I reported on a Mass in Flagstaff. Loved the 80-degree weather and greenery that welcomed me there.

So I saw the invitation to go north as another chance to escape triple digit heat. It was also a chance to explore our state, and of course, check another parish off of my list of those to visit. I would be taking pictures at the installation Mass of Claretian Father Fred LeClaire. He had been administrator since 2004, but St. Catherine Labouré had recently been elevated from a “mission” to “parish” status. That meant a bishop had to formally install the priest as pastor and the two would be signing paperwork at the altar during Mass.

Knowing the day would still be young after a mid-morning Mass, I figured there had to be something to see in the area. So, the Friday before Labor Day, I searched the Internet for something to do in Chino Valley.

Lo and behold, there was a vineyard less than one mile from the parish. Better yet, a Labor Day Harvest Festival was on the agenda. It’s scheduled again this year too with wine tastings for $10. Now, I’m not one to drink alcohol. Each of my siblings has a picture of me finally sampling my first beer on their fridge — I was seven years past the legal drinking age — but the idea of a wine tasting and spending more time in a city that just got its first Catholic parish sounded rather appealing.

I fell in love with Chino Valley that day. Warm and welcoming parishioners. A pleasant and peaceful environment at the vineyard. I experimented with the camera a bit while there too. The green grass was cool on the feet. The live music was good, and as the Holy Spirit would have it, so was the company.

I was mid-way through my sampling of wines when I spotted a familiar Catholic face across the counter. It was a couple I knew, first from a parish encounter and later through diocesan work. And they were kind enough to let me sit with them and another couple.

As they neared the end of their tasting, a storm rolled in. It momentarily rained hard enough for all of us to seek cover. The band started up again shortly, but I didn’t stay much longer. It was time to head home. I briefly drove through a low-visibility storm along the way, but that made the adventure more exciting.

So, if you’re looking for something to do this weekend, here is my suggestion:

  • Leave your Valley-area home around 7 a.m. this Sunday with directions or the GPS set for St. Catherine Labouré Parish in Chino Valley. Or, if you speak Spanish, leave at your leisure, go straight to the vineyard and then attend the evening Mass in Chino Valley.
  • Bring an extra $10 with you for the wine tasting.
  • Attend the 9:30 a.m. Mass at St. Catherine Labouré (or 6 p.m. Mass in Spanish).
  • Spread good cheer. Wish the priest, deacon, ushers and anyone else you see a happy anniversary for the parish. Tell them The Catholic Sun says the same.
  • Stick around for donuts and coffee, if there is any, and browse through the parish library. Or at least peek in and be affirmed at how many children are using it and are known by name there.
  • Since you will have missed the first Sunday rosary for Respect Life and Vocations scheduled for earlier that morning, linger around outside and offer it there. An Eagle Scout project provided both a rosary garden with walkable stones serving as beads and the Stations of the Cross, if I remember right. Or, according to the front page of the bulletin, the rosary might be offered a second time in the church at 10:30 a.m.
  • Pray some more. If there’s still a little bit of time before noon, offer a Hail Mary or some other prayer for every individual listed on the top of page 3 of the bulletin and those actively serving in the military listed on page 4. Pages 8 and 9 catches you up on diocesan news.
  • Once it gets near noontime, point your car toward Granite Creek Vineyard and enjoy the rest of your afternoon.